Thanks a million

My friend Janet recently vacationed for two weeks in Maui over the holidays. During that time, she laid out US$82,000 for a villa and two additional rooms at a high-end chain. Add that to a similar amount she spent in 2011 at the same hotel, and that’s roughly US$150,000 to a hotel in two years’ time from a single family. She is undemanding, generous and likes to enjoy her abundance. Who would not love to have her as a guest?

Unfortunately, Janet came down with pneumonia during her trip. Her doctor advised that she was not contagious and would do well in a sauna. When Jan called the spa, she was told that she could use the facilities when and only when she booked a treatment. The spa manager confirmed that and added, “Well, with the holidays, we are quite busy.” Janet asked if there was a time (6 a.m.? 9 p.m.?) when she could hop in for 10 minutes and was finally told reluctantly she could, but she would have to bring her own bathing suit and could not have a locker. One look at her in the property management system would have told the spa “manager” this guest deserved a pass.

(I will wait for your jaw to stop dropping at this point.)

What happened? Having run one of the more famous hotel spas in the country, I understand “capacity.” This was a case of training gone wrong, and training will always go “wrong” without a powerful culture to support desired objectives. Why? A “policy” was created that makes sense on paper, but in the real world “policies” are created for companies that don’t recognize the power of culture, so they employ training to “police” interactions. This short-sighted policy may have cost this hotel a million dollars over the next several years — my girlfriend is young, loyal and likes Hawaii.

Let’s be clear. The core difference between culture and training is this: culture drives behavior. Training alone is task-focused and robotic in nature. This is just one example of how culture drives profitability. 

So, what did the hotel gain? An empty locker. What did it lose? 


Culture is not just for yogurt.